That is the question.
WARNING: This is a very long post.
Deciding to go cloth:
I remember when one of my older sisters wanted to start a diaper-washing business. I thought she was crazy. I also thought anyone who used cloth diapers was crazy. But I was young and naïve.
When I became pregnant years later I began looking into the idea of using cloth diapers. I read about how it saved money (and lots of it!), how it was better for your baby, and how it helped if you planned on doing Elimination Communication. We are doing EC (Elimination Communication) but that’s a subject for another time.
Being not only frugal but also low income, it was a no-brainer decision to use cloth. The fact that it was better for baby was a nice perk, but not the deciding factor.
Deciding to use cloth diapers was easy; figuring out how was a little trickier.
I had no idea there was more than one kind of cloth diaper! The more I tried to figure out which type to use, the more confused I became.
Not to mention the price of the initial diaper setup. Have you ever looked at the price of a single AppleCheeks or Bum Genius brand diaper? It’s a lot! And apparently you need to buy diapers AND inserts! Oh, the pocketbook pain!
Finding my cloth diaper supplier:
So around the time when I was looking into the possibility of making my own diapers (which, a year later, is still an idea that rolls around in my mind constantly), I stumbled across an ad on Kijiji (a Canadian classified ads website). It was from a lady in Alberta who sells diapers.
I read the ad and it sounded great. She was personal and informative and best of all, she could set you up with everything you needed to start cloth diapering and it didn’t cost a fortune! I went to her website and read every single word. I liked it. I liked that she was just a mom, like I would be soon. I liked her story. I liked her prices. I liked her packages. I let her website make my diapering decision; pocket diapers were the way to go. Because that’s the kind of diapers she sold.
Pocket diapers are basically a diaper shell and then a fabric pad gets put inside. The shell is made of two layers: a PUL (polyurethane laminate aka water-proof stuff) outer layer (this is the pretty fabric) and an inner layer, which you want soft because its going to be your baby’s private parts’ closest friend. Theres an opening either on the front or back (sometimes both!) of the diaper and you tuck the insert (aka fabric pad) inside so it lays flat. See, the diaper isnt made of enough fabric itself to hold all the pee so it needs something inside to soak it up. Or else your baby will have a puddle in between his/her legs (not cool).
So I bought a package. It was 24 diapers with inserts (12 polyester, 12 bamboo), 6 “soakers” (extra thick inserts, meant to be used at night), a big diaper pail bag, two small wet/dry bags, and 12 bamboo wipes. With tax it came to $316. As opposed to the $2000+ I could spend on disposable diapers. Definitely the more affordable choice.
You can check out the site I bought my diaper package from here. If you mention that I referred you I will get a discount if I ever need to buy diapers again.
Her brand is called Piddly Winx.
Please note that prices have gone up since I bought my package and she has also discontinued polyester in favour of the more natural bamboo.
Involving the husband:
Yes, it is possible.
I wanted my husband to be excited about cloth diapering because getting men on board with cloth can be difficult, so I’d read.
So together Hubby and I spent an evening picking out the diapers we wanted (because they’re not just white, you know. Oh, you did know? Well la-de-da because I didn’t).
They come in so many colours and patterns! Trying to choose just 24 was surprisingly difficult and took a lot of time and negotiation (on my part, anyway).
And yes, my husband was not really interested in the activity … at first. But he got really into it and we ended up getting more of the ones he chose than I did. I was surprised at some of the diapers he chose that I had passed over completely.
See, I’m anti-pink. I mean, a little here and there is inevitable and I’m ok with that. But I avoid pink (and purple) whenever possible. And frills. Anything super “girly” because it’s just not my style.
But Hubby actually chose some pink and flowery diapers.
As it turns out, he’s not against pink and girly things when it comes to his daughter.
I was so excited when the package arrived! I actually waited an hour or two before I let myself open it.
I know. Amazing will-power, right?
I knew I would be consumed with its contents so I cleaned the kitchen first so I could feel like I accomplished something first.
(Not to mention the kitchen really needed to be cleaned; it always does.)
But back to the box! It was incredibly time consuming.
And I loved every consumable minute of it.
All the diapers were in individual packages, and so were the inserts. The wipes were in packages of 4. The wet/dry bags were all separate. It was like Christmas, only with clear wrapping paper. And only for me. You’ve probably never seen anyone so excited to open diapers.
Before I could start using diapers on my daughter I had to soak the diapers and inserts in some water with vinegar, then dry them, then get them wet again, then dry them, then get them wet again. (Then dry again, obviously.) This is because they’re new and they aren’t terribly absorbent until they’ve been put through their paces.
First Cloth Diaper Milestone: (aka wearing the first cloth diaper)
Finally later that night I got to put a pink bamboo diaper on my daughter. I figured out her snap size so it fit right and I started taking pictures. But only for about 90 seconds because that’s how long her very first cloth diaper was worn before she pooped in it. So I changed her and took more pictures. The second diaper lasted longer.
Every morning I have anywhere from 1-4 dirty diapers on the floor by the bed from nighttime changes. So I take those plus the one my daughter is wearing (because it’s usually wet) and I pull the inserts out of the shell.
Always take the inserts out before you add the diaper to the pail; you’ll thank yourself once it’s time to put it in the laundry!
I put all of it into the diaper-pail bag (where yesterday’s dirty diapers are) and take it down to the washing machine.
I always do it as a large load (so that it will use more water and therefore less detergent residue will be left on the diapers once they’re done) in warm water. I don’t use hot because I don’t want to put undue wear on the diapers.
I’ve heard that you should use the normal size load according to how many diapers you’re washing or else your diapers aren’t getting clean however after a load has dried I always smell one diaper, as quality control. (I can’t believe I just admitted to doing that). They usually smell just fine and dandy. But it’s normal for them to get a slight funk after a while (for me it takes a couple months) and then you need to “strip” your diapers, which is just a different way to clean them to get out any buildup.
Once they’re clean I hang them in the sun (or clouds, whatever weather the weather report happened to be wrong about that day) on our front deck. I have a folding dry rack. I use clothesline clips on the wipes in case it gets windy. Some days, the entire rack does blow over. I just pick it up again and count the diapers and inserts to make sure I haven’t lost any. Once it’s dark I bring the diapers in. If they’re still wet I leave them on the rack in the living room until they’re done.
Once the diapers are dry I stuff them. This means I put one insert in every diaper. I try to make sure I always have at least 4 nighttime diapers (a normal diaper with a soaker insert in it) and the rest get normal inserts.
I put bamboo inserts into polyester diapers and polyester inserts into bamboo diapers. Just because.
Then I fold the wipes and put most of them with the wipe-water (I don’t buy baby wipes, I make my own wipe-water and dip the wipes in it when I change a diaper). A small stack of wipes go in the bathroom for wiping Doll after she potties.
As diapers are dirtied (or found randomly throughout the home) I separate the insert from the shell and put them in the diaper pail. Wipes too.
Poopy diapers and wipes get sprayed off in the toilet using the diaper sprayer. Then they hang to drip over a bucket until I do a laundry load.
During the winter I did the laundry more often. I would wash them once I had six dirty diapers. This was because I wasn’t hanging them out in the sun to dry, but just inside. So they would take a little longer. So I did smaller loads more frequently to ensure we wouldn’t run out of clean (and dry) diapers. When it’s nice (aka not freezing) out again I’m back to doing just one load per day.
You can dry your diapers in the dryer, but that will make the elastics wear out faster and can cause the PUL to become less effective (leaky diapers suck, fyi). I do it occassionally but only if they won’t have time to hang dry before I need them.
Hanging in the sun does wonders for the diapers. Even if they don’t get any direct sunlight, just drying outside helps.
I read recently that you should avoid drying diapers in direct sunlight (except when bleaching out stains) because it will cause more wear. I think this probably depends very much on location and season.
After drying them inside all winter I got used to it but now that I’m drying outside again I’ve realized that they had started to smell funky! They were clean but they just had a faint dirty-diaper smell to them. The sun gets rid of that smell the first time you hang them outside. Not to mention it’ll get rid of any stains that the wash didn’t get out. If we get poop on any baby clothes I’ll hang them to dry out with the diapers and it helps tremendously!
Diapering challenges for me:
My first ever diaper dilemma was what do I do with the poopy diaper? I had read about diaper sprayers that attach to your toilet, but we didn’t have one yet. So… ? I just put it in the laundry bag and threw it in the laundry that way. And it was fine. It came clean, mostly. Stained, but clean. And the stain went away when I dried them in the sun.
So that’s how I did the diapers for about the first 2 weeks of cloth diapering. Then my husband and I went to the hardware store and he built a diaper sprayer for me. The diapers rarely come out of the wash stained anymore. Which is good because I didn’t hang them outside during the winter.
There was a 2 week period during that first summer where I washed the diapers by hand. Our washing machine broke. We took our regular laundry to my parents’ a couple times but no way was I going over there once a day to do diapers! I wasn’t sure if they’d be OK with that anyway.
So I washed them in our kitchen sink every morning.
But I was determined to stick to my cloth-diaper guns. I refused to purchase disposable diapers. Luckily, my husband’s mom had sent us some disposable diapers in a care package and we used them at night. That helped a lot with the laundry load. And eventually we bought a used washing machine and everything went back to normal.
Although my husband is perfectly agreeable to using cloth diapers, once they’re dirty the ball stays in my court. Sometimes I find wet diapers in odd places around the house because he changed the baby’s diaper and just left the dirty one where it fell.
And the poopy ones? Forget about it! The only good thing about the poopy diapers is that he does put those ones in the bathroom, but only because the smell hits his gag reflex and he can’t stand to have it out in the living area or bedrooms.
If I’m at home, I change the diapers. Hubby just doesn’t like to do it. And when I get home from work I have to make a careful walk-through of the house looking for stray diapers to throw into the laundry bag before I start the wash.
Sometimes I feel annoyed that he doesn’t help more with the diapers but most of the time I have better things to occupy my “little grey cells” (Hercule Poirot reference, for those of you that like Agatha Christie).
I have also bought a few more diapers on eBay. One bamboo and four polyester. And a few different types of inserts.
The first one didn’t have the hip snaps (it just had one row of snaps at the top) and that stays in the bottom of the diaper drawer as a back-up/emergency diaper.
Another lost its waterproofness, so I still have it but it would be a pretty extreme emergency for us to use it again.
The bamboo one from eBay is awesome! Sorry I didn’t take a picture of it. It’s pretty standard, just like my Piddly-Winx ones.
I also got a “charcoal” diaper but as far as I can tell its just dark grey fleece. Which taught me that fleece is excellent material for the inside fabric of diapers because its so soft and it wicks moisture away from Doll’s bum really well.
The most recent diaper is double-gusseted. Confused? I was too, which is why I ordered it. It means that it has two separate sets of elastic between her legs. So the first elastic is where it would be on any diaper; the seam between the PUL and fleece. But then the PUL keeps going and ends at a second elastic. It’s a good idea but I haven’t noticed that it works any better. It was also another “charcoal” diaper.
As for the inserts I’ve bought on eBay:
I got two double layer cotton ones that (so far) were a waste of money. Not much money though because I think I got them for like 19 cents each. They’re just too thin to be of any use. I keep hoping I’ll find a use for them.
I bought two different insert types from a lady who makes them. I got two soakers and three “day” inserts. I really like the day inserts.
They’re very thin yet just as (if not more) absorbent than the inserts that came with my diaper package.
I can barely tell when they’re wet, they wick so well! If you’re interested (and I do HIGHLY recommend her homemade inserts) you can see her eBay profile here: sewing-pro.
I’ve got a couple inserts that are just as good as the ones I got with my diaper package. These came with the eBay diapers I bought.
And just yesterday I received in the mail two new inserts which have gusseted sides. I’ve done the wet-dry-wet-dry-wet-dry routine and they are now snugged in diapers, waiting for their first use. I’m always excited about a new diaper purchase; I cant wait for Doll to pee in it!
What about you? What do you think of going cloth? I look forward to your questions and comments, all of which I read personally!